Tapeworm: contamination, symptoms, and treatments
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Tapeworm: contamination, symptoms, and treatments

The tapeworm, also called tapeworm or taenia, refers to a parasitic worm, of the Cestodes class, which develops in the human small intestine where it can live 30 to 40 years, sometimes causing disorders.

Flat and segmented in shape, with the appearance of a ribbon, the tapeworm is hermaphrodite and can measure up to 10 meters long to adult size.

What causes the appearance of a tapeworm in the intestine? What are the consequences? Can we prevent its occurrence? How to fight against tapeworms? Here are our explanations.

How do you catch a tapeworm?

These parasitic worms are transmitted through the ingestion of meat infected by live larvae: beef or pork, usually raw or undercooked.

For humans, these infesting forms are called cysticerci. They are present in the muscles of animals and therefore in their meat.

Two species of tapeworm can affect humans:

  • Taenia saginata or unarmed tapeworm, transmitted by beef, which would be present in 0.5% of the French population;
  • theTaenia Soliumor armed tapeworm, which is transmitted via pigs: there are no more cases described in France, even if it persists in some countries of the European Union such as Poland.

Tapeworm: symptoms and forms of contamination

Symptoms of tapeworm

The infection goes unnoticed in most cases and it is quite possible to harbor the parasite for years without realizing it.

However, several symptoms can be observed in some subjects:

  • abdominal pain;
  • Nausea;
  • appetite disorders;
  • Rashes;
  • fatigue;
  • Headache;

Abnormal and rapid weight loss may also be a sign of infection.

Mode of contamination

Once ingested, the tapeworm larva attaches itself by its head to the wall of the small intestine. It develops gradually thanks to the food ingested by the host and reaches its adult size in three months.

The worm is then able to reproduce: it develops by making rings, or segments, equipped with a reproductive apparatus.

Regularly, rings containing the eggs are released and expelled through the anus. The rings of the tapeworm are flat, and rectangular in shape, and can measure up to 2 cm long by 6 to 8 mm wide. They are often described as resembling pasta.

Tapeworm: treatments and complications

How to treat tapeworms?

An antiparasitic drug, or dewormer, is usually prescribed to kill tapeworms.

Two molecules are particularly effective and used:

  • praziquantel, or Biltricide, in a single dose of 10 mg/kg;
  • niclosamide or Tredemine, 2 cp in the morning, then 2 cp 2 hours later; the latter is not available in all countries.

Once destroyed, the tapeworm is expelled with the stool by natural means.

Tapeworm: Are there any complications?

Tapeworm is a relatively benign condition and complications related to the parasite are very rare. They include:

  • appendicitis;
  • intestinal obstruction;

In the case of Taenia Solium, however, humans can become an intermediate host themselves through the accidental consumption of parasite eggs, present in the feces of other humans.

The ingested eggs pass through the blood vessels and settle in different muscle tissues, or even cerebral, in the most severe cases, to form cysticerci or larvae. This is called human cysticercosis, a serious condition that causes eye and neurological disorders.

How to prevent contamination by tapeworms?

To prevent tapeworm contamination, the most important thing is to ensure that:

  • prolonged freezing – 10°C for a minimum of 10 days;
  • or sufficient cooking of beef or pork to destroy tapeworm larvae.

Consumption of raw beef, or steak tartare, is at risk

Food hygiene measures must be respected in particular in regions of the world where sanitary and veterinary controls are less developed.

Less commonly, other meats can transmit tapeworm saginata:

  • sheep;
  • caribou;
  • the llama;
  • antelope;
  • the wildebeest;
  • the giraffe;
  • the lemur;
  • gazelle;
  • the camel;

It is important for humans not to leave their stool within reach of animals such as cattle. This gesture could transmit the tapeworm saginata to them.

It is also important not to eat vegetables that may have been soiled by human droppings, because of the risk of human cysticercosis. That is why human manure is prohibited.

Complementary approaches to treating tapeworm

In herbal medicine, it is proposed to fight against tapeworms by proceeding as follows:

  • make a cure by consuming, for a day, only one or two liters of fruit juice, such as grape juice that is suitable, possibly diluted with one or two liters of spring water;
  • The next day, use the pumpkin seeds, about 200 g for an adult man. Ground the seeds into powder and mix them with the same weight of liquid honey. Take this preparation in the morning on an empty stomach, when you get up. Repeat the operation after half an hour and then another 30 minutes later, i.e. three doses on the same day;
  • Prepare in parallel a decoction, the infusion time of which is 5 minutes, of a tablespoon of bourdaine bark for a cup of water, followed by two hours of infusion. Once the infusion is finished, it can be drunk.

The tapeworm must disappear permanently 3 months later. If only the rings have been removed and not the head, it will be necessary to start again, this time dividing the doses by 2, but spreading the treatment over 3 days. The cure will be maintained during this time. The decoction occurs only on the third day.

You can also:

  • For 2 days, make a mono diet of seasonal fruit, preferably from organic farming, and a maximum of 1 kg per day, the ideal remaining grape. You can also opt for plums, figs, or apples or do a complete fast;
  • On the same two days, drink at will, in large quantities, a decoction of male fern root.

Image Credit: Image by jcomp on Freepik

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